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Aussie Rules: Cats begin premiership defence

Geelong get their premiership defence underway when they take on Collingwood on Friday night, while there are four other games to look forward to on Saturday.

The AFL returns with a bang with the games coming thick and fast and the Cats will be keen to hit the ground running again at the MCG. Last time they played at the venue they won the Grand Final and without doubt that will be the aim again as Chris Scott’s side look to go back-to-back.

It will be far from easy though against a Collingwood side that made finals last season and will be keen to kick on and make progress in 2023. Saturday also looks set to be a thriller with Melbourne, Brisbane Lions and Sydney, who are all genuine premiership contenders, in action.

The Lions in particular face a tough start away at Port Adelaide, who should go better in 2023, while Melbourne entertain Western Bulldogs and the Swans travel to play the Gold Coast Suns. 

In the other game of the day, North Melbourne and West Coast Eagles clash and will be keen to improve on what was a shocking 2022 season for both clubs.

It is all set up for some exciting action so let’s take a closer look at each game, starting with the Cats versus the Pies.

Geelong v Collingwood (Friday, 19:40 AEST)

Geelong are priced at 1.52 to start their premiership defence with a win and have been boosted by the news that Tom Hawkins has been passed fit to play after recovering from a foot injury. It is not all good news for the Cats though as both Mitch Duncan and new recruit Jack Bowes both miss out through injury.

Brandan Parfitt has also been overlooked by coach Chris Scott on this occasion. As for the Pies they will hand debuts to Bobby Hill, Tom Mitchell and Daniel McStay as they look to cause an upset in round one. They are priced at 2.55 to do just that.

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North Melbourne v West Coast Eagles (Saturday, 13:45 AEST)

This is a huge clash for both sides as they look to get off to a strong start to banish the memory of last season’s struggles. North Melbourne begin what they hope will be a bright new era under new coach Alastair Clarkson.

They are priced at 1.85 to start it with a win. Clarkson has already made a big call by deciding to leave veteran star Todd Goldstein out of his 22.

West Coast had a nightmare on the injury front last season but are in better shape heading into this one. However Adam Simpson has found no room for Jai Culley and Sam Petrevski-Seton in his squad.

Port Adelaide v Brisbane Lions (Saturday, 16:35 AEST)

Port Adelaide started 2022 with five straight defeats and will be hoping for better in 2023. They are priced at 1.97 to win, but will have to do it without former captain Travis Boak who is ruled out with a rib injury.

The Lions can be backed at 1.85 to get the win and coach Chris Fagan has named a strong-looking side for the game.

New signings Jack Gunston, Josh Dunkley and Conor McKenna are all set to play at the Adelaide Oval. Both of these sides will be targeting the flag so this opening game could not be much bigger.

Melbourne v Western Bulldogs (Saturday, 19:25 AEST)

Melbourne have suffered big blow with the news that influential defender Steven May will be forced to sit out the opening game with a hamstring injury.

The Demons will also be missing veteran defended Michael Hibberd but they are still priced at 1.72 to begin with a win.

Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge clearly believes height will play a big role in Saturday’s encounter and has chosen his side accordingly. Sam Darcy, Aaron Naughton, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, Liam Jones, Alex Keath and Josh Bruce have all got the nod.

Gold Coast Suns v Sydney Swans (Saturday, 20:00 AEST)

Gold Coast will be hoping to break into the eight this season and a win over last season’s grand finalists would be a good place to start. They are priced at 2.25 to do just that.

Ben King has been named to play after missing the whole of 2022 with a ruptured ACL. The Swans are priced at 1.65 but will have to do it without Sam Reid, who has an injured glute.

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